When I read about authors who have lived extraordinary lives either through circumstance or intention I sometimes feel I have not been adventurous enough. But what is ‘enough’ for a writer? Do I need to shuck my family and spend a year in the Amazon? Should I live by my wits alone in the Maine woods, or walk across the country? I believe every experience a writer has can, and should, be something stored in the well of our imaginations for later use. By ‘use’ I mean to be used to express something we need to get across not just a piece of construction. An experience expressed should have a connection with the writer and make a connection with the reader. For those of us with obligations which make taking a grand adventure difficult we should not feel lesser. We need to be better observers so when we live vicariously through others we not only get in on the adventure but we also translate the experience. What are the participant’s feelings? What doubts alter their choices? We need to document our own adventures the same way.
There is another place writers must go that many may find more harrowing than a dark medival forest: our minds. I am not talking about imagination, I am speaking more of the places telling us we are afraid to die, or if we just had the guts we would take that SOB out into the desert and they would never be found. Maybe it worked for Superman who kept his day job while living the hero’s life, but I cannot help but wonder how much more compelling it would have been if he had to choose between being Superman or having a career and Lois Lane. A writer needs to take the impulses the rational mind turns aside and instead, follow them. Where does the story lead if you admit you are afraid to die and learn that you will do so very soon? What if you killed a person? What if someone tried to kill you?
For writers of the fantastic there are also dark places where monsters and very evil things lay in wait. They come out in our nightmares sometimes but we should also close our eyes and walk bravely into the dark and find them, remember them, even meet them. Why do they haunt you? What do they want? How will they go about their destruction of you and mankind?
Everyone needs to get away and having real adventures is great but there are also adventures to be had in our own souls. Those dark rooms in our minds have already stored the experiences of ourselves and others, they just need a context.